It may be the subject of a humorous movie, but planes, trains and automobiles are the stuff of dreams for a 12 year old boy named Charlie. And just being able to plan for and participate in a wish is a minor miracle for a boy who was not supposed to live past his 1st birthday.
Born 10 weeks prematurely and first placed in foster care, Charlie suffers from lung disease as well as an extremely rare neurological disorder called Perisylvian Syndrome. To get a picture of his condition, a full list of his diagnoses would fill every line of a college-ruled sheet of paper. Effects of Perisylvian Syndrome include partial paralysis of the muscles on both sides of his face, his tongue, jaws and throat. This results in difficulty speaking, chewing and swallowing, in addition to episodes of epileptic seizures. Doctors say that he may never reach adulthood.
Witness Charlie as he is today: a very happy, bright 12 year old boy who loves learning and his class work. And according to his adoptive mom, Kathy, he "loves everyone" too. This feeling was reciprocated in a huge way by the team of people he met during his wish trip to Chicago and Midway Airport recently. Said his mom, it was "the most loving experience he has ever had." Since Charlie can't gesture, he wags his knees and arms "like a puppy" says his mom, and "most of the week was spent wagging!"
A careful observer of maps and transportation, Charlie tallied 15 different modes of transportation on his wish, and was "totally giddy" on his limo ride to the airport that began it all. Charlie's visit to the Windy City started with a ride on Chicago's "El" elevated train. He then arrived at Midway Airport to a crowd of airport management, police officers and airline personnel. A Chicago PD officer presented him with the first of many gift bags he received that day, and Charlie met several canine "officers." Cleared to take off, he moved to the Southwest Terminal's Communications Room where he spoke to a Southwest pilot and received his own personalized day-glo orange colored runway jacket. Next, he taxied out to the runway where he saw the underbelly of a plane, toured the cockpit and rode the pushback truck to move a plane out to the runway. Not just along for the ride, Charlie wore headphones and communicated directly with the pilot. A mounted runway light with his name engraved on a plaque was given to him to commemorate the experience.
Going where even few airline employees have gone before, Charlie was then escorted up to the air traffic control tower to watch planes take off and land and hear staff explain what each person there does. Not to be outdone, the Chicago Fire Department next hosted Charlie and his family for lunch, followed by a tour of the fire trucks and the always entertaining fire hose demonstration. But there was more fun ahead, and a surprise in store. The Chicago Police Department sent him flying in a personal helicopter tour of the city! This was his favorite part of the day, Charlie's mom tells us. For her, the best thing about the trip was being able to spend a "week of freedom from worry, and be cared for by strangers whose only motivation is a love for kids." All day long, Charlie kept saying "I just donít know what to think about of all this!" The good news is he can think about it all for a while to come.